Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Short Story: Not Yet

Sistine Ceiling
The will of God. Not a topic to toy with, and one which ultimately gets a lot of people pissed off one way or the other while discussing he/she/it/them . . . Oops, must watch what I write - lest I offend. But the idea of god, a god which can actively react with us mortals is, and always has been, a great device for a short story. So here is my ‘god’ story. I hope you find it amusing and not the cause of a Jehad . . . Enjoy.


Not Yet
by Paul Darcy

Harv was rather disappointed to learn that the voices in his head were not those of god at all, but rather generated from interference from DAB radio broadcasts and his misaligned braces. Still it didn't stop him from following their directions, it only made them a little less grandiose.

One such instruction, which he had originally believed to have come from god, but now knew better, was to go out and purchase a new blender. A white one with a juicer attachment. He had mistakenly taken the instructions as a personal comment on his physical fitness, or rather the lack thereof and had therefore concluded that god had taken a personal interest in his well being. Of course he was then led to believe that he was destine for something big. Oh how crushing to learn the truth. Radio broadcasts indeed. But he would cope.

Although it was a blow to his ego, small and deflated as it already was from growing up in a household of over-achievers, he being the least useful of the bunch, it was not entirely devastating to the point of suicide. That was not really an option. He was too much a wimp to contemplate slicing his wrists or washing down a bottle of pills with gin. Yuck, even now the thought repulsed him. He was listening to the voices telling him the merits of UV protection and hair loss wax. But somehow it still all made a kind of sense to him.

So, with his small ego, beaten up and almost non-existent, Harv went to the local K-Mart to pick up the blender with the juicer attachment. He could deal with the other instructions at a later time if he remembered them. It was less important to him now than it had been. God, it would seem, did not take a personal interest in him.

He was searching the kitchen isle when a shapely blonde girl, not much older than himself, bumped into him. She was very good looking and he smiled. "Sorry," she said smiling back.

"Ah, entirely my fault. I'm Harv, as in Harv Bennet." Harv looked into her eyes. Her corneas looked like burnt almond chocolate bars, his favorite kind.

She giggled and replied. "I’m Liv. You know like, Liv Tyler."

Oh god, Harv thought, this couldn't be true. He had flirted with an obscure Star Trek reference to his name and she had repartee with a Lord Of The Rings one. He closed his mouth momentarily to stop from drooling.

A silence descended between them, but not an awkward one. It was the kind of silence which falls between two dogs meeting, the one moments before they sniff each other's ---
"You're kind of cute." She cut Harv off in mid thought, and his legs nearly gave out from under him.

"So are you," he came back quick as a whip. He leaned in for a snuggle or kiss or some kind of contact when the voices in his head spoke again. He was to try breath-fresh the all-new mint. Damn, he leaned back, teetering on the brink of something. He had to go.

"Ah, wait right here, I'll be back in a sec."

"Sure," she said looking a little put out, but willing to wait for him or so he thought.

Harv ran as fast as he could down the kitchen isle to go look for the checkout. It would be there where the wire frame racks would hold all the latest gums, chocolate bars and breath mints.

Struggling with the boys cloths, which seemed so tightly packed together he felt like he was trying to push through dense jungle, Harv cursed still unable to locate a checkout in the large K-Mart. Soon he was into the toys area, Barbie and Ken flashing him plastic happiness from behind there polyethylene coffins. Where the hell was the checkout?

Appliances next with multiple TVs all showing Cinderella part two? When had they made another and what could possibly be happening after happily ever after. Voices again. Leave her alone with sudsy bubbles, Colgate anti plaque formulation, extra potency garlic pills.

Harv became disoriented in the sporting section. There were bats on sale as well as overpriced trademarked T-shirts. His mind was swimming. Had he met someone earlier, a blonde? What was he looking for? The checkout, but he didn't have anything to buy. Try walking for one wall, once there head right and keep the wall in sight. Eventually you have to arrive at the checkout or the exit. He needed to escape.

Frantic with needs, hopelessly lost amid the isles and consumer goods, Harv despaired. More voices, buy this, go there, eat this, and drive that. His mind screamed out in pain. A slow-mo scene did Harv see. Like the explosion on the old Enterprise with Klingons flying every which way. He was one of them, hurtling slowly for the deck. His face impacted with the tiled floor right next to a red light special. Red alert, the voices said moments before he blacked out for good.

***

God finished combing her hair and popped into being at the appropriate moment. It was time to check in on his experiment. Harv bumped in to her. "Ah, entirely my fault." He said. "I'm Harv, as in Harv Bennet."

God checked his eyes for any signs that his experiment was working. Damn, she thought, this was distressing. She disguised her distress by giggling. "I’m Liv." God may be taxing the system here. But it was a test she needed to perform. "You know like, Liv Tyler."

Heartbeat rising, irises dilating. Shit, god thought, this was not promising. She detected a buildup of saliva in Harv’s mouth. Hold it together man, she thought. He closed his mouth at the last minute. Good, he hadn’t completely crumbled. Easy, easy she was thinking stretch it out and…

"You're kind of cute." God said. This was pivotal. Harv didn’t fall down, but he flinched like a ton of bricks were placed on his shoulders otherwise he was holding his own, and what was this, he was about to speak. Good, very good.

Harv said. "So are you." But his skin was paling noticeably now. He was teetering toward her like he was going to faint or plant a kiss. Time for more DAB and the conclusion to the testing. If all went well, then …

"Ah, wait right here, I'll be back in a sec." Harv ejaculated.

"Sure." God replied changing facial expressions. This was not going well at all. Harv sprinted down the isle and was gone.

Standing alone for a moment, god contemplated his findings. Harv was representative of the finest minds evolved today, but he was still far from ready. Very disappointing indeed. Still, it could have been worse. He could have keeled over after the initial bump. Oh my …

Watching through a fly’s multifaceted eyes relayed no less information to god. Harv was down, and dead.

One deep inhalation and god took off out the revolving doors and buzzed off into the night. He would return in another two thousand years of so and see if there was any more marked improvement.

Maybe he should have chosen reptiles?

Nah, no second-guessing now, it was already done.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Weird Science: Space Creatures

Laika
Outer space.

Vast.

Dark.

Cold.

Not the kind of place you want to take your dog for a walk, but a place dogs have already been. Now I’m not one for animal testing (unless the animal is human and consents to tests knowingly), but during the space race of the fifties and sixties the Russians and Americans thought nothing of blasting non-human animals into space.

The first terrestrial animal to make the journey into Earth’s orbit was a dog from the Soviet Union, named Laika. She took the trip on November 3, 1957 aboard the Sputnik 2. By this time Sputnik 1 had already been successfully launched October 4, 1957 and claimed the title of first man-made satellite ever placed in orbit.

Poor Laika (doomed from the start since the capsule was not made for extended life support or reentry heat shielding) was placed in a pressurized compartment inside a 500 kilogram capsule and blasted into orbit - just so the Soviets could claim first live creature in space ahaed of the Americans. Laika died after a four days in orbit, and the Sputnik 2 returned to Earth on April, 14 1958. I can’t think of a crueler fate for a dog, but all in the name of winning and being first - right?

Not to be outdone by the Soviets, the Americans also began blasting non-human animals into space in 1958, but at least they made the attempt to retrive the creatures alive. The first, a squirrel monkey named "Old Reliable", road the rocket in a Jupiter flight on December 12, 1958 and made it into space but not orbit. The poor monkey drowned after splashing down in the ocean for recovery.

Another American Jupiter flight on May 28 1959 sent two female monkeys 300 miles high. A rhesus monkey named "Able" and a squirrel monkey named "Baker" made the trip and returned alive. They probably never climbed another tree for the rest of their lives.

Both the Americans and the Soviets sent these poor creatures into space for many years to study the effects of space on animals before sending up humans in 1961. Cowards.

But let’s face it, the first terrestrial animal in space was a cow, probably named "Betty" from the US Midwest. Grey aliens would have taken her up for a tour, probed her, then released her back to the pasture to spy on humans with her implants and alien DNA . . .

Of course that is pure speculation - please scratch that last paragraph from this scientific post.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mystery Book Review: Tooth And Nail

Tooth And Nail
From the mind of author Ian Rankin springs his third mystery novel, Tooth And Nail, involving Inspector Rebus. This time, John Rebus is after the "Wolfman"; a serial killer with a grisly modus operandi.

You see, the murderer doesn’t just kill his victims, he takes a bite out of them afterwards as well. Rather unpleasant business for sure. John Rebus is sent for from his normal Edinburgh stomping grounds all the way down to London to help in the investigation. The reason is that John is a cracker at solving serial killer cases - or so everyone but him believes.

Things heat up in the big city as John, trying to help in his own way, makes some decisions which are questionable. To top it off, the local police don’t think too kindly about having and "expert" from up north mucking about. He is teamed up with George Flight, the lead London investigator on this case, and some believable heated moments take place between he and John.
Mix in some colorful characters, a gorgeous psychologist, which John can’t help himself from getting involved with - on and off the case - more bodies stacking up with denture marks on them, and the usual twisted ending and you have another pleasant (if that word applies) read.

Another great Ian Rankin novel which has you second guessing who did it, and has you rooting for and believing in the fallibility of John Rebus and his unorthodox methods.

Highly recommended again. Tooth and Nail is a fun book with a dark edge and gritty humor and a lead character you can actually sympathize with. What more could you ask for? Well other than Cthulhu to show up that is?

Next up from Rankin for me will be Strip Jack. And from all I’ve heard so far, the series just keeps getting better.

Bring em on!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Short Story: Colonization


Ahhh, the vastness of space. The are so many worlds as yet unreached and unexplored. As NASA makes waves, talking once more of landing people on the moon and even mars, I am reminded of a story of the human race reaching for the stars I wrote a couple years back. As with all great explorers, there is always risk. But with that risk comes the possibility of reaching out, expanding the race to new shores, or in this case, new worlds and increasing the odds of continuation. But not all colonists are as they seem. And not all go about it the same way. Enjoy!


Colonization
by Paul Darcy

"What do you mean you lost it?" Mission Commander Calvin faced his medical officer.

"Look, I know it sounds ridiculous," Weber answered, "but it’s not here anymore. One of you three must have come in and taken it out during the night. By the look on your face I can tell it wasn’t you, but I find it equally hard to believe that Jenkins or Stewart would bother, even in jest. They are too preoccupied with assembling the pre-colony habitats to be playing tricks. Besides they have already expressed their dislike for this planet’s plant life more times than I can count, especially Jenkins. I hadn’t finished studying that particular specimen and will have to go and gather another one. Disruptions like this I can do without. You aren’t the only one with a strict timetable for this planet you know."

"I hear you," Calvin said. "Jenkins and Stewart aren’t fond of the foliage on this world and I don’t blame them. I don’t like it either. It’s damn strange, you have to admit that. Actually it’s too damn strange, but I have a mission to finish here in two days. The pre-colony buildings must be assembled and operational by then or we are going to incur very expensive overtime which I personally have to justify. The ship’s auto pilot back to Earth will need to be recalculated if we leave any later than two days from now and I don’t fancy doing that for no extremely valid reason. I know you have to catalogue the major flora and run your compatibility tests. Any disruption to either of our schedules is not welcome, but your work can be completed on the return trip to Earth. Mine can’t. Anyway I don’t think Jenkins or Stewart would play games with the damn stuff, but I’ll ask them when they get back in. We may be a new team, but we stand to lose too much by screwing around."

"All I should need is another day to study the specimens on planet, if they stay in my lab." Weber said. "After that, I’ll be the first one webbed in for our return home. Strange marginal planets like these are meant for the hard colonists to tackle, not contract foundation layers like ourselves."

Calvin had to agree and his face creased with concern. When he had first answered Weber’s call, Calvin had expected to come down here and have Weber explain to him that the unexpected disappearance was a prank, that he just found the thing in his salad where Stewart or Jenkins had planted it. Despite his and Weber’s judgement about Stewart and Jenkins, they may indeed have done something with the specimen. Calvin secretly hoped so. If this thing could get around on its own, and free on his ship? He was jumping to conclusions with very few facts. "I know the vegetation on this planet doesn’t conform to the norms we are used to back on Earth, but Christ it couldn’t walk out of here could it? It was only a bloody plant."

Weber looked thoughtful, but did not reply quickly enough for Calvin. "So, what were you able to find out about it before it went missing?" Calvin inquired. "Could it move, Weber?"

Weber rubbed his forehead and looked at Calvin. "I was only able to run a few tests late last night after I brought it in here. From what I could tell, it can move though I don’t think it was able to move very much, except maybe to turn towards heat sources for its energy requirements, similar to plants on Earth. But even if it could creep or something it should be damn slow. And yes, I checked the whole lab first before I called you. I’m not sure what to think if Jenkins and Stewart weren’t involved."

"Well keep looking, and make damn sure the next sample is locked up so it can’t creep away, or Jenkins and Stewart can’t steal it, or whatever the hell happened. I’ve got to go make my progress report. Let me know when you find the thing. I don’t like the idea of it lurking around my ship." Calvin left Weber scratching his head and looking about the ship’s lab module as if the specimen would suddenly crawl out from hiding and reveal itself.

Alone on the bridge, Calvin sat in his command chair and switched on the recorder to make his mandatary daily report back to Earth. The large delay imposed by the speed of light made sending these messages nothing short of talking into the void of space, but discipline forced him to relay anything of significance or lack of significance each day regardless.

Calvin began. "Our progress to date is good, though it took longer to clear the area of vegetation than first anticipated. The plants here are very tenacious and fast growing, but by working three hours of overtime the final site is sterilized and we are meeting schedule. The plant life disintegrated under plasma arcs readily enough, but is much more dense than the reconnaissance probes had lead us to believe. Dr. Weber has started his onboard analysis of this planet’s vegetation, though he has no conclusions at this time. Day ten report over. The usual coded information stream from sensors will follow. Calvin out."

Calvin toggled the transmit switch and was about to settle back and enjoy a bit of rest when the ship’s airlock cycled. It would appear that Weber was wasting no time gathering another plant specimen, even before he found the stray. When Weber returned, Calvin would personally make sure the new specimen was secured to his liking. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Weber, he just felt better handling things himself, and he didn’t want any more of this damn plant life on his ship unaccounted for. Though he would never admit he was afraid of it, it did give him the creeps.

Calvin had reclined back into his command chair for a small rest when he heard a clatter in the aft of the ship near the air lock. What the hell was this? Even half dozing, Calvin shouldn’t be hearing anything on an empty ship. It took him a few seconds to realize his name was being called as well.

"Commander Calvin?" There was a pause. "Commander?" more loudly and urgently this time and heading in his direction.

"In here," Calvin replied finally recognizing Stewart’s voice. A few seconds later the thumps of heavy boots reached the other side of the bridge door. The door whined open and an excited Stewart stomped in still suited up for outside construction work and carrying his helmet.

Stewart’s face beamed extreme excitement. "Spit it out, Stewart, whatever it is." Calvin was too tired to play fifty questions.

"We found something, Commander. I don’t know how to explain it, except, it isn’t ours, sir." Stewart looked like he was floating in zero gravity the way he was swaying on the bridge, even though the gravity on this planet was almost identical to Earth. Calvin sat up straighter in his chair.

"What do you mean, it isn’t ours? We’re the first company here. We were bloody well assured of that before we left." All Calvin needed now was a problem over the rights to pre-colonize this planet. "Have our competitors sent probes here? That would be in violation of agreements for this planet. Christ, this happened once before to another team." Calvin ended up playing fifty questions anyway.

"It’s not a probe, sir. We have no competition like that. It’s, well, we uncovered foundations." Stewart fidgeted like a nervous four year old and began talking faster and more excitedly. "Jenkins and I were starting to remove the last of the soil covering the bedrock for habitat three when we discovered walls, Commander. Definitely walls and not something naturally created. I’ve worked in the planet colony construction business for twenty eight years and I know what’s natural and what’s been constructed. And what we found is definitely a construction, I swear it." Calvin was fully awake now and sitting forward in his chair. Adrenalin drove the fatigue from his body.

Foundations? How old? Who could have made them? Calvin had a thousand questions racing around his head as he followed Stewart quickly back to the airlock. "Give me five minutes to suit up and I’ll join you and Jenkins at the site." Stewart sealed his helmet in place and cycled the air lock. In a moment Stewart was outside and Calvin was alone.

Five minutes later Calvin was fully suited and eager to go. He should have taken longer to double check his suit and connections, but what Stewart and Jenkins may have found was unbelievable. If it were real it would be the first signs of advanced life outside of Earth ever encountered. His name would go down in history as having commanded this historic mission to this fringe planet near Antares. This planet would probably bear his name forever after. Retirement with unlimited cash flow here I come, Calvin thought as he twist sealed his helmet in place, made one final all systems check, and cycled the air lock.

The ship’s air lock, a simple device consisting of a large gimbal driven by electric servos or manual crank, opened smoothly. The inner door closed as smoothly as it had opened, then the air was evacuated from the chamber and the outer door opened. Calvin stepped down a short ladder and out onto the alien planet. The sky was a hazy purple, and the wildly colored and disturbing plant life dotted the landscape like a distorted Monet painting. A large dark bare patch down a long slope revealed the work of Jenkins and Stewart. Two completed habitats rose defiantly against the purple sky from the site, and Calvin could see the flashes of plasma arcs on the edge of the large bare patch of ground where the last habitat was scheduled to go.

Calvin followed the burned trail and headed for the clearing. He walked more quickly than if he were going about a routine inspection of the habitats and soon arrived where Stewart and Jenkins were working.

They both stopped when they saw Calvin arrive, and Stewart pointed at the ground and spoke excitedly through suit radio. "See, Commander, right there. It is definitely a wall!" Calvin moved closer and looked down at the excavated earth. He had to agree with Stewart, there could be no mistake. This was no natural phenomenon he was looking at. Bricks or blocks about two feet square, were carefully positioned onto the rocks. Calvin could even see pins anchoring the blocks just as they were about to do with the frame struts of habitat three.

"Well, hole my ship!" Calvin couldn’t help catch Stewart’s enthusiasm. This was unbelievable, and would certainly mean untold riches for this entire crew. "Any guess as to the age of those walls?" Calvin asked, still staring at the partially uncovered blocks in amazement.

"Don’t really know." Stewart answered.

"I think I can guess," Jenkins added. He seldom spoke, but was a solid steady worker whose opinion Calvin trusted.

"Go on." Calvin urged.

"Well, commander. If you look really close at them they are riddled with this damn plant growth. It’s almost like Swiss cheese with the holes filled in. Damn stuff, looks like it can grow in or on anything. And, the blocks were about one meter underground so this damn vegetation doesn’t seem to need light, like mushrooms or something. See, its still alive down there. Anyway, since this planet is close to Earth in surface conditions, and if we took Earth as a model it would have taken roughly ten thousand years to deposit that much soil over these blocks. So, sometime when we were running around with sticks on Earth, these was being laid down here." Jenkins said no more. He didn’t need to.

"Hole my ship and tear my suit," was all Calvin could say to that. If Jenkins was right this would unbalance the entire view of the galaxy as humans had enjoyed it for many centuries. It had to happen eventually he reasoned, but to be here where it would all begin was daunting. Still, he was the Commander of this mission and had to act as such even if he wanted to dance about and sing. He forced his mind into practical get-the-job-done mode. "Stewart, Jenkins continue clearing out as much of this as you can and take lots of pictures. And be as careful as you can. The people back home are going to want to study this in microscopic detail. I think this warrants an unscheduled transmission to Earth. We can discuss this back at the ship over supper, if any of us can eat."

In response, Stewart and Jenkins picked up their plasma arcs and began carefully vaporizing more topsoil. Calvin made his way back up the path towards the ship and passed Weber carrying an empty sample container on his way down. "Weber, you will never guess what Stewart and Jenkins uncovered?"

"They found my stray?" Weber sounded hopeful.

"No, something far more unbelievable. Foundation blocks from a settlement, and possibly ten thousand years old."

Weber took a moment to speak. "But, we have only been in space for two hundred years."

"I never said it was ours, Weber." Calvin smiled through his faceplate and left Weber to ponder his comment and collect his specimen. "Oh, and Weber. Don’t let any more of those things get loose on the ship."

Talk over supper had included every myth and tale of ancient races and visits to Earth that any of them had ever heard. They kept looking at the pictures Jenkins and Stewart had taken of the blocks after they had cleared more of the soil. It seemed unreal and if the images weren’t there on the table in vivid color to validate the find, they may all believe it was nothing more than a mass hallucination.

Finally, after what seemed hours of discussion on alien civilizations, Calvin turned the conversation to the suddenly lesser important topic of the strange plant life on this planet and Dr. Weber’s progress in cataloging it. "So, Weber. What were you able to tell from the new plant specimen you collected today?"

"Let me tell you," Weber began, "after seeing those blocks I had a hard time concentrating, but I did manage to learn more this afternoon. First, plant life may be stretching it as far as classification goes. Though they roughly look and act like plants, though strangely colored and shaped, they really are not plants at all." Weber’s forehead scrunched up as though he were trying to think of how to describe, in laymen’s terms, exactly what they were. If he broke into biological lingo he would lose Calvin and the others completely. "Let’s just say they have more in common with fungus and animals than plants and need an new classification all of their own."

"What does that mean exactly?" Calvin knew a bit about fungus, but animal could refer to anything from insects to elephants.

"Well, they are definitely asexual. They divide and reproduce rapidly without any kind of fertilization and seem to need no direct light in which to do it. And their DNA is easily twice as dense and complex as ours which may or may not mean a whole lot other than they are not simple plants, or animals, or fungus at all but a highly evolved life form more complex than we are at the molecular level. And as we have noticed they are definitely top of the food chain on this planet. Much more extensive tests will need to be done to fully understand their life cycles, habits etc. I don’t have the time or equipment to even begin such a study here, but those who follow will have all the time and money to uncover their secrets once this world is properly colonized."

"And, I take it," Calvin said, "that you didn’t recover the stray?"

"What stray?" Stewart asked.

"Nothing to worry about." Weber assured. "One of the specimens went missing this morning. I suspect it made its way into some tight spot and died. Our ship’s atmosphere is not exactly friendly to them."

"Still, I wish you had found the thing." Calvin grumbled. Jenkins sat quietly, looking uneasy.

"Well, I know I’ve had enough for one day." Stewart said. "I’m going to cash in and go to sleep. Tomorrow we will start clearing another new spot for habitat three and I want to be rested. Plasma arcs look light and easy to use, but they are deceiving, right Jenkins?"

A grunt was all they heard from Jenkins, who also rose from the table and headed for his quarters. A tired Weber and Calvin followed shortly after.

***

At two twenty five am ship’s time, air recycling duct seven pinged with and unexpected vibration. None of the crew woke from the sound. Several minutes later more subtle noises began in other areas of the ship as the planet’s life form divided and squeezed its way into every dark corner it could manage. It began to bind its way into ships fiber optics and conduits and wall casings and it began to adapt and learn and feed.

Jenkins, lying on his cot, did not hear the life form as it slithered silently up his cot’s leg. In twenty minutes it had made its way to Jenkins pillow. A light caress on Jenkins neck nearly woke him, but not quite. An hour later Jenkins body began to change. The rest of the night period on the ship passed without incident.

***

Stewart expected to meet Jenkins for an early breakfast and was surprised when he didn’t show. A quick check of Jenkins empty quarters made Stewart wonder if he were still on the ship at all. A check of the suit lockups proved he wasn’t. Couldn’t even wait for me this morning, Stewart thought, packing back his reconstituted eggs. He and Jenkins were usually the first two up and out. They liked to work earlier hours taking it easy the rest of the day unless overtime pay were involved. Still, it was damn odd of Jenkins to leave without even warning him.

Stewart made good time to the habitat sites but found no immediate sign of Jenkins. He looked into the two habitats they had already set up. They were empty.

Stewart stood outside under the purple sky and looked around the clearing. Suddenly his eye caught movement a short ways into the thick alien plant growth and it took his mind a few moments to figure out what he was seeing. When he realized what he was looking it Stewart nearly staggered. Jenkins was kneeling down among the vegetation which nearly covered him. But that was not what nearly stopped Stewart’s heart. Jenkins was not wearing his helmet. Stewart rushed over to his friend.

***

At first Calvin thought it was adrenalin and the excitement of the find yesterday, but after checking with isolated instruments he determined that the ship’s interior temperature had increased by two degrees Celsius. Calvin played with the panels one more time. "God damn duo-logic programming." Calvin cursed as he tried manually rerouting an environmental control circuit and was thwarted by redundant circuits. "Our company paid top dollar to have this bloody ship checked out before we left? I’ll skin somebody when we get back home." He grumbled. After several more attempts the controls seemed to stabilize and the temperature began to return to normal, at least the air regulators kicked back on, something they hadn’t done automatically in a while.

Calvin heard a bang behind him and spun around. One of the control panels had fallen off and lay on the ship’s floor. It was one he hadn’t touched. It must have come loose with all of his fist pounding and cursing over the past half hour. Calvin snapped it back in place and caught a whiff of something unpleasant, like rotting garbage. He had been sweating in the extra heat of the ship and was in need of a shower. Christ, he was beginning to smell as bad as the plants on this world.

Calvin passed Weber on his way to the showers. "Going out for more?" Calvin asked.

"No. Actually I am bringing this specimen back outside. Your orders. I am finished what I can do here anyway."

"Learn anything new?"

"Not really. Except I believe they are very advanced life forms. Incredible adaptability." Weber had a look of concern pasted on his face and Calvin didn’t like it.

"Don’t tell me more of them escaped." Calvin grumbled.

"No, nothing like that. Though, I should tell you the holding tanks I placed them in were, almost compromised. Those life forms break down structures at a molecular level and integrate themselves with the surrounding substances."

"Like the alien foundation blocks." Calvin suddenly had a terrible thought. "Hole my ship. Weber, the one that got away." Calvin suddenly felt as though a cold wind had blown up his back.

"The one that got away was a very tiny specimen, hardly larger than my thumb. It couldn’t do much. Though we should find it in case it does some damage to a vital system." Weber lifted the canister he was holding. "I better get this back outside."

"Hang on, Weber. I’m coming with you. I’ll need to get Stewart and Jenkins over here to help. They have most of the ship’s equipment at the site. I have a feeling we may need it all. Hole my bloody ship! Let’s move."

It may have been the way the gimbal air-lock sounded while cycling, or it may have been the way it slammed shut like it never had before, but Calvin had the uneasy feeling that a coffin lid had closed. The air lock was definitely not functioning normally. Weber had moved away to the edge of a cleared area to dump his specimen.

Calvin tried cycling the air-lock again as if he were going to immediately reenter the ship. He keyed in the correct sequence twice, but nothing happened. After the third failed attempt he opened the emergency hatch to access the manual crank system. What he saw inside the hatch froze his blood to a point which no suit heater could rectify. The manual controls were shot through with the alien plant growth like an apple riddled with worms. The handle of the crank was actually deformed, detached and completely useless. Calvin slammed the hatch shut and raced for the habitat site to find Jenkins and Stewart while yelling for Weber to follow.

When Calvin and Weber arrived at the habitats, all was quiet and there was no sign of activity. Calvin had expected to see plasma arcs firing while Stewart and Jenkins cleared more soil for the last habitat. This lack of activity was unsettling. After a short excursion around the outside of the two finished habitats, Calvin decided to check inside them. Maybe Jenkins and Stewart were only taking a break, playing cards or something. The alien plant life had encroached on the newly constructed habitats already, where only yesterday Calvin could remember the dead zone around the habitats being much larger. He should have brought a plasma arc himself, but was in too much of a rush to bother.

Calvin tried the air-lock to habitat one, almost afraid it would not cycle. It functioned perfectly. He and Weber stepped inside. A quick search of its several rooms revealed that the structure was empty. They left and entered habitat two. It opened as easily as the first.

"Stewart, Jenkins." Calvin called. There was no reply. He removed his suit helmet after checking for green lights on the habitats environmental controls. The air was humid and much warmer than it should be. Perhaps Jenkins or Stewart hadn’t bothered to set the controls properly yet. If anything it should be cool and dry. It would be many months until the Earth colonists would come and this excess heat and humidity wasted energy.

A shuffling noise in one of the far rooms caught Calvin’s attention. "Stewart. Jenkins. Are you in there? What the hell are you two doing?" Calvin tried to sound authoritative, but the damp hot air made his words come out flat.

"In hear," came a croaking approximation of Jenkins voice. Calvin stiffened at the sound and he could sense that Weber behind him had been startled as well. Calvin lead the way as he and Weber made for the darkened far room.

At the entrance to the dark room Calvin stopped. He could feel extra humidity wafting from inside the room and the stench of decaying matter, the distinct smell of this planet’s vegetation. Jenkins was standing in a shadowy corner, the plasma arc cradled loosely in his hands. He was swaying like a drunk. Calvin was about to enter, grab Jenkins by the neck, and demand to know what was going on, but Jenkins voice stopped him cold. "We need go. We need inhabit new. We are crowded, need space."

Calvin’s nerves were jangling, on the verge of collapse. "Jenkins. What the hell has happened to you? Where is Stewart?"

"Stewart. Stewart joined. I am left, to stop." Jenkins voice cracked and nearly stopped altogether. Gurgling noises took over Jenkins’ voice making him sound like he was drowning in phlegm.

Suddenly the foundations of the habitat shuddered as though caught in a mild earthquake. Panicked realization gripped Calvin and he sprinted to a view port facing the ship. The ship was lifting off. "Weber," Calvin said. "Christ, Weber, the life on this planet is stealing our ship, and its auto heading is set for return to Earth."

So caught up in watching their only way back home disappear, Calvin and Weber momentarily forgot about Jenkins. The gurgling voice again stabbed at Calvin and Weber from the entrance to the dark dank room. "We need you. You come. It has been long time since last. We were undone. Our world changes. We use. We need new." Calvin and Weber spun around to face Jenkins, or what Jenkins had become. Shot through with the alien plant life, his exposed skin resembled a peeled and rotting grape. Calvin could see movement beneath that horrible skin, and the thing that was Jenkins wobbled unsteadily on its feet. He still held the plasma arc.

"Mother of all holed ships, Weber! We have got to warn Earth before our ship returns!" Calvin scanned the habitat. One room held a transmitter which might be Earth’s only salvation.

Jenkins stopped wobbling. "We stop you. We survive. We colonize."

Calvin and Weber launched themselves toward Jenkins.

The plasma arc flared.

The colonists advanced toward a new world.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Weird Science: Fast Fish

cosmopolitan sailfish
Have you ever wondered just what the fastest fish in the world is? I have, and so I did a little research into the topic for today.

I really thought I knew the answer, but I was wrong. It is not the bluefin tuna. The fastest fish I’ve ever seen personally, was a grouper (Deepfriedorus suckulentis). Actually it was a piece of a grouper. A coworker, through extreme vacuum and apparent hunger, sucked that piece of grouper off his plate at near the speed of sound, I swear. I thought I even heard a sonic boom but may have only been his lips smacking.

But that doesn’t really count since that piece of grouper was not a live fish. If we are talking live fish, then let’s get a rundown of the speediest ones around and the next time somebody looks smug and says, bluefin tuna - you can look even smugger and say - what that sluggard? - not according to the collected data to date.

Top of the fast fish chain is the well known (he said not knowing before) - cosmopolitan sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus). If you just went "huh?", you are not alone. Still, this species of fish has been clocked at just over 60 miles per hour, or 95 kilometers per hour, over short distances. And that is extremely fast. In fact the fastest fish ever recorded.

But what about the bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) you ask? Well, sorry Charlie, you are not as fast as the cosmopolitan sailfish. In fact you are not even as fast as the yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) or the wahoo (Acanthrocybium solandri). Yellowfin record hits 46.35 miles per hour or 74.5 kilometers per hour, and the wahoo record is 47.88 miles per hour or 77 kilometers per hour.

Charlie, the bluefin tuna, comes in a sorry fourth (not even a bronze) at 43.4 miles per hour or 69.8 kilometers per hour. So now you know.

A few more noteworthy speedsters of the sea, though not necessarily fish, are the flying fish at 40+ miles per hour or 60+ kilometers per hour, dolphins at around 37 miles per hour or 60 kilometers per hour, and trout at 15 miles per hour or 24 kilometers per hour.

The fastest person recorded was 5.19 miles per hour or 8.3 kilometers per hour. Of course this was in a pool under controlled circumstance, not in the ocean with a great white in pursuit. Add a couple more miles per hour, I think, in that case.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fantasy Book Review: Dance Of Demons

Dance Of Demons
Gary Gygax. He wrote this novel, published way back in 1988, as well as many, many more Dungeons and Dragons manuals too. This novel, a grand fantasy set in the world of Greyhawk (a fantasy world in which you play D & D created by - yup - you guessed it - Gygax), is the final "Gord The Rogue" novel.

*Using Yosemite Sam voice* When I say final - I mean final.

Gygax holds no punches in this one. Demigods, Demons, the most powerful entities in Greyhawk and the Abyss duke it out to the bitter end. Highly entertaining and a fitting end to the whole series, which spans seven novels.

In this final chapter, ‘Gord The Rogue’, imbued with god-like abilities, embarks on a quest to unleash the universes most powerful evil in the name of balance. I found this a novel a treat, most likely because I am familiar with twenty sided dice, armor classes and the abilities of rogues - but this novel goes beyond entertaining those in the know of D & D.

It’s a classic fantasy romp, and the stakes are rarely higher than in this offering. The extra fun comes from recognizing familiar Dungeons and Dragons world of Greyhawk players - like Orcus, Demogorgon, Infestix and Iuz. Then there is Tenser, Mordenkainen and Bibgby . . . And you now picture me with a bag of dice slapping against my thigh, gathering with nerds at night, and role-playing until dawn to save the world from evil . . .

No comment.

Suffice it to say this series of novels by Gygax is quite entertaining at any level. And if you can find them, (a really big if here), I recommend them as a fun, fast read. And if you are like me having grown up in the late 70s and early 80s playing ‘the game’ then these particular novels are the "dicing on the cake". . .

The complete series, in order of publication, is as follows (with funky photo of all of them as well);

Gord The Rogue Series1) Saga of Old City (Oct. 1985)
2) Artifact Of Evil (Feb. 1986)
3) Sea Of Death (Jun. 1987)
4) Night Arrant (Sep. 1987)
5) City Of Hawks (Nov. 1987)
6) Come Endless Darkness (Mar. 1988)
7) Dance Of Demons (Nov. 1988)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Short Story: Campfire Meal


If you have ever been camping in the great outdoors then you must have, at least once, sat around a big ole campfire and swapped tales and tunes. Well, roasted marshmallows then. Okay, moved from position to position trying in vain to outwit the smoke pouring from the inferno - but there must have also been one good ghost or horror story told at some time in the darkness of night. Well, if you've never had the pleasure you can read this story or relive your own experience all over again.

Oh, and this is a true tale - scout's honor . . .


Campfire Meal
by Paul Darcy

"Gather round, gather round, and I'll tell you a tale." Bob Gisome, leader of the boy scouts called from his seat on a log around the blazing campfire. After a few minutes the twelve boys were seated also on logs around the fire.

"What kind of story are you going to tell us?" Asked John, the youngest.

"Well, it's a very dark night. I think it will be a horror story, and a true on at that." He glared crazily at each of them setting the mood as best he could. The twelve boys loved Bob's stories and remained quiet waiting for him to begin.

"This is a very special night boys. I've never told this tale to anyone. It has been a long time and I hope I can recall all the facts. It is a tale of something horrible which happened in these woods before any of you were even born. I myself was only about your age when it happened. You see, there is a creature in these woods. It is old, very old. Some say older that the mountains to the north where it was supposedly disturbed and awakened forty years ago, exactly to this day. You all know of Ned Parkins camp across the river?" The boys nodded in unison. "Well, it's not very well known anymore. In fact it was even hushed up at the time it happened, but forty years Ned's father Ralf went to the mountain on an errand known only to him. There were twelve campers staying in that camp across the river that night."

Bob stopped and looked at each boy in turn, letting the number twelve sink in. A log snapped loudly in the fire sending up a shower of sparks and the boys took in a sharp collective breath.

"Those twelve campers never came home again," Bob continued, "and one by one they disappeared. Some said Ralf called them to the mountain. That was not entirely true." Just then, one of the boys got up and stepped out of the ring of light cast by the fire. Probably to go to the bathroom thought the others.

Bob hesitated a moment then began with more animation in his voice. "You see it was Ralf that disturbed the sleep of the creature, and when he did the creature awoke and became very hungry. Ralf would have been eaten immediately had he not made a deal with it. Ralf told it where it could find twelve, healthy bodies to eat if it would let him be." Another boy left the campfire and headed into the woods. The first hadn't returned yet and the remaining ten were feeling a little uneasy.

Bob's loud voice startled them out of there thoughts, "So boys, this creature made a deal with Ralf, but never meant to keep it. After it had eaten the twelve it was going to eat him also."

A third boy left the fireside.

"But old Ralf was not as foolish as the creature thought and had made plans before his trip to the mountain."

Two more boys left the fire, one after the other rather quickly and wandered off. As yet none had returned. The remaining seven were getting suspicious of a prank.

Bob continued. "So it was on this night forty years ago that the creature crawled down from the mountain and into the camp. It hid just at the edge of darkness, with scarcely a sound." Suddenly a twig snapped and six boys hearts jumped then settled as they saw it was a seventh walking away from the campfire. He had happened to step on a branch.

Bob started again more excitedly than ever. "The bodies of the twelve campers were never found. Of Ralf, nothing more was ever heard and Ned would give no clear account of that night to the authorities. It was years later when Ned confided in me the truth of what happened that night."

Another boy got up and left. The final five moved closer together as though that would bolster their courage.

"You see, the creature was not from this world. It came from a time and place outside of that which we know." Three boys intent on the story hadn't noticed a fourth get up and leave.

"It found humanity to be weak and useless. Good only for sport as playthings." Two boys watched in terror as a third got up and left. They looked at each other. Where were the others?

"This creature's mind had the power to control humans. It could make them do as it wished, then when it tired of playing it would shred the bodies and hide the pieces deep in the mountain." John watched in horror as the last boy rose as the last boy beside him got up and walked away.

Bob's voice startled John back to attention. "Yes, John. The truth is that every forty years the creature must feed, and humans are most enjoyable food. But John, one thing I forgot to mention. There was not only one creature, but two." With this outburst Bob leaped up, his body hideously deforming and as John tried to turn and run he was clamped in a fierce grip from behind.

***

The bodies of the twelve boy scouts and Bob were never found, though nobody ever thought to check deep in the caves of the mountain to the north.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Weird Science: Cyclotron

Berkeley Cyclotron
Sounds like either a Transformer or a Marvel Comic’s villain, but is neither - at least not that I know of. A cyclotron is a device used to accelerate ionized particles to extremely high speeds.

Conceived of in the nineteen twenties by Ernest O. Lawrence (1905 - 1958), the cyclotron was developed by nineteen thirty four at the University of California, Berkeley. It was one of the first of it’s kind used to accelerate ionized particles. And judging by the picture I saw of the esteemed men who worked on this project, they were not wearing long hair and tie-dyed shirts (that would come decades later), but rather conformed to the norms of the thirties by sporting suits, ties and military style cropped hair.

So why the need to take ionized particles and increase their kinetic energy and speed? Well, the original conception by Lawrence and the Berkeley team was so that they could study the nuclear structure of the atom. And we know where that lead us, don’t we. Sake anyone?

So how fast could the cyclotron accelerate a particle anyhow? By imparting a charge of roughly five million electron volts (not much by today’s standards where some particle accelerators can impart trillions of electron volts) an ionized particle could be accelerated up to about one tenth the speed of light. Not too shabby. Captain Kirk would be impressed.

But with the cyclotron there is a speed limit on particles because once they achieve one tenth the speed of light relativistic properties begin to interfere and the particle’s mass begins to increase just like Einstein said. And once that begins the cyclotron is unable to boost the speed any more and keep the particle on its circular path.

There are other devices, which were developed later (from the late nineteen forties and on up to the present day) which overcame this limit and can impart trillions of electron volts to particles getting them very much closer to the speed of light. Captain Picard would be impressed.

Today’s uses of the cyclotron (there are hundreds in operation in more than twenty countries) , besides studying nuclear reactions, include making radioactive elements, studying chemistry and creating radioisotopes for medical applications and some industrial purposes.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Book Review: Making A Good Script Great

Making A Good Script Great
As I struggle away on my current movie script I find myself looking through, or in this case completely reading, “how to” movie script books.

I will say this book by Linda Seger certainly has packed a lot of information in ‘Making A Good Script Great’ in not so many pages, and most of it is quite helpful. I read it through in three days and haven’t really had the time to digest all the information yet (I plan on re-reading sections again), but Linda really does seem to know what she is talking about.

The book is broken down into three sections. The first deals with story structure, how to make sure your script has structure and what to look for and repair if it doesn’t. Though not a formula, the three act script is universally acceptable and dates back as far as Greek plays and probably even oral traditions before that. She covers it pretty well, but I got more information on script structure from “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by Trottier.

The second section is ‘idea development’ and to me seemed sort of vague. But then again nobody can tell you how to come up with mythology or themes. Linda does a good job though telling you how to search through your script and find those elements and expand on them.

The third part is where I find this book really shines. It is about character development and I must say it is extremely well done. It covers motivation, conflict and character types in much detail. If you buy this book for only this one section it will worth your coin. Very well done and something I am going to follow for sure.

There is a fourth section dealing with the development of the script for ‘Witness’ and it is a good look behind the scenes of an award winning script and what it took to bring it to the box office. Not sure if I find it encouraging or depressing - but I did find it interesting.

In short, this is a “Great” addition to any script writers collection, even if you only use it for the character section. I did get one good belly laugh out of the introduction though and will (without permission - I will burn in that “special” level of hell) reprint it here.

From the introduction to “Making A Good Script Great” - “After submitting his script to a producer who turned him down, he protested, ‘but it’s much better than anything else I’ve seen!’ ‘Of course,’ said the producer. ‘Anyone can write better than that. The trick is to write so brilliantly that after everyone ruins it in rewrites, it’s still watchable.’

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Short Story: The Medal

Medal Of Honor
I figure everybody’s got at least one war story in them even if they only ever read about them in history books. It’s just one of the most horrific realities of human existence, and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a let-up in the organized killing any time soon. And yes, it’s easy for me to talk like that from my cozy, safe home as I type on my computer in a climate controlled room, while others don’t even have clean water to drink. And isn’t that one of the main causes?


The Medal
by Paul Darcy

We nervously trained our automatic rifles in the direction of the ridge and the quiet rustling noises. Silently we waited, sweat dripping slowly down our painted faces. In between the thick vegetation, a flash of khaki camouflage. It was Spear returning. Our tension lessened slightly. As quickly as he could, while maintaining cover in the dense tropical forest, Spear crept up to us, knees bent, looking scared. We couldn't tell by seeing him like that whether he would have good news for us or bad. We, all of us, look scared, away from base camp on a mission. He was out of breath so we let him be. He would tell us soon enough.

We, consisted of myself, Jack Lord, known as Five-O, Billy Bubrooski, Spear, the Howdi-Doodi twins, Dave Hanson and Ralf Foyer and the ever quiet, four-eyed Miles Townsan, Doc. We were all that was left of sixth division. A specially trained recon troupe of twelve. This had been a one hell of a mission so far, and with less than half of us left to complete it, we weren't to hopeful

The mission. An enemy platoon had somehow infiltrated our lines, devastated an important supply depot, and returned to some close base the choppers couldn't find. We were out here to find them, report back the location, and let the Big Guns come in and take-em-out.

The Big Guns always talked about taking-em-out. They seemed to be far less effective than they boasted of. They had the firepower alright, we had seen it many times. Huge fireballs devastating acres of forest. But they counted on punch instead of accuracy. That's why our supply line was hit last week. We were assured by the Big Guns that the area had been secured. Secured my ass. They were so damn confident in their heavy artillery, blasting the faceless enemy from an impersonal distance. Get then on the ground with bullets whizzing by their heads like hornets, friends blown to hamburger beside you, watch friends and enemies's blood spray the leaves and then let them boast about taking-em-out.

I could tell Spear had mostly caught his breath, was about to speak, when we heard the faint dreaded noises coming up and below and somewhere to our right. Another patrol? Where the hell were they coming from? We had just come from below and they hadn't been anywhere around then.

Spear motioned up the way he had come and began to move. We scrambled up after him, making as little noise as we could. Just then my god-damned grenades started jingling, but I couldn't stop to try and quiet them. The patrol was gaining on us. I guess the sound of my grenades was enough to alert them to our presence though, because the next thing I knew machine gun fire was chattering from below. Limbs and leaves dropped from the trees around us. It was obvious they didn't know exactly where we were, just the general direction, but that was sometimes enough. A full patrol could unload three hundred rounds a second. It only took one to kill.

We were almost at the top of the rise when I heard Doc grunt in pain. He kept coming though, running on adrenalin. If we could gain the ridge. Then, as Spear and I reached the top, Spear swore at the top of his lungs. I caught a glimpse of why and with animal reflexes dove to my left heading for the ground as fast as I could. Spear had triggered a pair of Bouncing Betties. In my mind I saw them rise on either side of him as if in slow motion. Spear screamed again, there was a muffled blast and I hit the ground hard as though pushed there and began tumbling out of control down a steep slope. The entire time I was falling I kept seeing those damn Betties suspended in the air. The worst part was they weren't meant to kill, only incapacitate. Wounded soldiers are more of a burden than dead ones. We knew it, the Viet-Kong knew it. But they were the only ones using that knowledge here.

I could hear the Howdi-Doodi twins returning fire with their M-16s, then I hit the ground at the bottom of the slope and ground gave way. The hole I broke into was about fifteen feet deep and the breath was slapped out of me when I hit the bottom. Earth and plants tumbled in after me. The sound of gunfire and explosions was muffled now, and far off. I moved my limbs and head carefully. Nothing was broken and I still had all of my gear though I suspected that would do me little good. I was sure I had fallen into a Tiger trap. Another popular Viet-Kong device. Sometimes they had wooden spikes in them, sometimes not. In this case it seemed that there weren't any. But, as I looked about with my eyes adjusting to the gloom, I realised that I wasn't in a Tiger trap at all, but a tunnel. By the dull light, which filtered in from the hole above, I could see the passage lead off in either direction.

I looked up at the hole I made, then at the dirt walls. No way I could climb out. I got up and headed down the passage in the direction opposite the rise. It had to lead out somewhere. I had no lights and no great love of the dark. Bullets and knives came out of the dark. I also had no choice.

Then it struck me. This was part of the legendary Viet-Kong tunnel system. They were said to have tunnels running all through their territories. But if this was part of the system it was far too close to our supply lines. We were told the tunnels didn't reach anywhere as close as this though. Told by the Big Guns. I should have known. We had been looking for a base. I knew now there never was one. They had burrowed there way here. Almost unbelievable.

It wasn't too long after I had been making my way along in the dark when I began to see a faint light up ahead and heard voices. Viet-Kong voices. I could also here the crunching of wood occasionally. Sounded like crates being piled. I crept closer, until around a turn in the tunnel, I could see what was going on. About tenViet-Kong were stock piling munitions. I could see inside one open crate. Bouncing Betties and dynamite.

I went back around the corner to think. Now I'm not much of a hero, but I figured I would never get out of these tunnels alive. I made my decision quickly. I took out all five of my grenades, hooked them together, kissed one, muttered a personal curse with my teeth biting a pin, turned the corner and hurled the bunch down the tunnel toward the crates. I ran like hell back the way I had come. I remember counting to five. Then I felt like I had been hit by a freight train from behind.

When I woke up next I was surprised to find myself in a hospital in America, not hell. I was told I had successfully completed the mission by a general I had never seen before. He smiled a toothy smile. I didn't smile back. There were a lot of other military men there also. One of them pinned a medal on me, but I was too weak to pull it off.

My nineteenth birthday was tomorrow. The same day as Spears.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weird Science: Hopper’s Rule


Now I know you are thinking kangaroo mice or rabbits, but they have nothing to do with Hopper’s Rule, though I am sure there are some ingrained hopping rules for mice and rabbits.

I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate (Oh my god, speculation in a science piece?) that Hopper’s rule was named after Grace Hopper who, in the early 1950s developed the first compiler in conjunction with the first programming language "Fortran".

She called it the A-O compiler (true statement) - most likely from working 20 hours a day on it, drinking tequila and singing ‘AO... A-a-a-Ohh, daylight come and I want to go home. (false statement) . . . ahem... Sorry about that.

All this silliness, but I still haven’t explained what Hopper’s Rule is, have I? Okay, enough suspense. Here comes the goods.

Hopper’s rule states that electricity travels one foot in one nano-second or one billionth of a second. This is one of many rules used by computer programmers and it is the supposed limitation on the possible speed of a computer. A speed limit, if you will, of signals in electrical circuits.

I’m sure her supervisor at that time looked down upon her compiler and said, "you have done well, Grace Hopper . . . "

Okay, that wasn’t too funny, but without Grace Hopper’s work the ease of interchange between man and machine may not have gone as smoothly or developed as rapidly.

I’m reminded now of Scotty holding a mouse - "computer." *shake shake* "computer."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Science Fiction Book Review: Killer Planet

Killer Planet
If this is a novel, it must squeak in at just over the bare minimum. Bob Shaw’s novel "Killer Planet’ is a mere 102 pages long but packed with adventure and action. And just to let you know - it is a young adult novel.

This is my first Bob Shaw (Bob is from Britain) novel ever and I thought this book was written sometime in the sixties, but when I checked the publication date for "Killer Planet", I found that it was published in 1989. The cover art tricked me. Tricksy cover art, or should I say Trippy?

The gist of the story is a young man goes on adventure to a planet - yup the Killer one where nobody has ever returned, ever. - to see if he can rescue, or at least find out what happened to, his brother who was a space marine lost there several years ago.

And I can see influence here from the Berserker series by Saberhagen. Anyhow, this novel reads like a much larger one, but a much larger one chopped down significantly. There is a lot here in not so many words. It kind of throws you if you are used to reading more fleshed out novels.

Bottom line. Not bad, but seems rushed. If you want to read it you will find it okay but not nearly as good as early Heinlein. But at 102 pages, it will be easily absorbed in no time at all. And aren’t you just dying to know what’s on the "Killer Planet"?